US warns Americans traveling to Winter Olympics

Reading the quotes from this warning given by the State Department to Americans going to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, I'm struck by how surreal it is.

"Remain vigilant and exercise good judgment and discretion when using any form of public transportation"? So if I get on a bus and a guy who look like a suicide bomber is saying prayers, I should excuse myself and get off the bus?

That's not the worst of it. There's also a problem with Russia's 19th century health care system:

Noting that the Olympics are the "first large-scale event to be held in Sochi," the U.S. government said, "Medical capacity and infrastructure in the region are untested for handling the volume of visitors expected for the Olympics," and medical care in many Russian localities "differs substantially from Western standards due to differing practices and approaches to primary care."

Travelers were advised to consider "purchasing private medical evacuation and/or repatriation insurance."

In other words, don't get sick. And if you do, pray.

Speaking of prayer, good luck avoiding terrorism:

Noting recent terror attacks in the Russian Federation, the advisory pointed out that the Games "present an attractive target for terrorists."

The Caucasus Emirate has indicated it may target the Olympics. The militant Sufi nationalist group, formed in 2007, has already attacked a ski resort, trains, an airport and a theater.

The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation has said 100,000 security personnel would be on duty at the Games and around Sochi.

"Russian authorities have indicated that they are taking appropriate security measures in Sochi in light of this," the State Department said. "Acts of terrorism, including bombings and hostage takings, continue to occur in Russia, particularly in the North Caucasus region. There is no indication of a specific threat to U.S. institutions or citizens, but U.S. citizens should be aware of their personal surroundings and follow good security practices."

Friday's advisory also reminded lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travelers that Russia has banned "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" to minors and that the law applies to foreigners, even though the authorities have not clearly defined what constitutes "propaganda."

But elsewhere the State Department writes that LGBT individuals "are protected by anti-discrimination laws in Georgia, and there are no legal impediments to the organization of LGBT events. However, traditional cultural attitudes result in LGBT individuals often facing de-facto discrimination and harassment by state and private actors."

More information is available on the State Department's LGBT Travel Information site. 

To sum up; stay away from busses and trains, don't get sick or injured, watch out for terrorism, and don't act gay.

Otherwise, have a pleasant stay.

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